Singapore International Festival of Arts to return from May 14 to 30

Part of the line-up for Sifa this year is The Year Of No Return by The Necessary Stage, which will delve into the environmental crisis.
Part of the line-up for Sifa this year is The Year Of No Return by The Necessary Stage, which will delve into the environmental crisis. PHOTO: TUCKYS PHOTOGRAPHY

SINGAPORE - Singapore's annual performing arts festival returns from May 14 to 30 with a bumper crop of new commissions.

The Singapore International Festival of Arts, which had been cancelled last year due to the pandemic, will have more than 60 live and online shows by local and international artists. Tickets go on sale from noon on Tuesday (March 16).

Headline commissions include a modern adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters by Singapore's Nine Years Theatre and New York's Siti Company. Siti actors will appear digitally while Singapore actors perform onstage at the National Library Building's Drama Centre Theatre.

Another highlight is The Rhythm Of Us, a three-part dance and music production in which the Singapore Dance Theatre and Singapore Symphony Orchestra will perform together live at the Esplanade for the first time.

One of the choreographers is renowned American dancer Pam Tanowitz, who worked with dancers remotely through Zoom video sessions.

There is also The Invisible Opera, in which musician Sophia Brous will interact live from Melbourne with audiences in a Singapore city square.

Festival director Gaurav Kripalani, 49, whose three-year term was extended to this May after last year's hiatus, says: "This festival has been programmed as a response to everything we've been through and the environment we live in now.

"Streaming performances online was what a lot of us had to resort to during lockdown, which is less than ideal.

"What it did do, though, was spur my interest in exploring 3D, interactive and responsive technologies in relationship to performance, which I believe will become an integral part of the performing arts going forward.

"If we had to find a silver lining to Covid-19, it is that there is a far greater appreciation for the arts and a pent-up demand for live performances."

Last May, the festival organisers launched the online platform Sifa v2.020, a series of virtual talks, workshops and shows in lieu of live physical performances.

"We learnt a lot of lessons about what worked and what didn't - in terms of streaming, safe management measures, and what artists were able to do using new technology," Mr Kripalani adds.

There are nine festival commissions this year, the highest in his tenure.

Most of these will be available via video on demand a week after the festival, from June 5 to 12.

Home-grown theatre companies Pangdemonium, Wild Rice and the Singapore Repertory Theatre will also collaborate onstage for the first time in The Commission.

In Oiwa - The Ghost Of Yotsuya by The Finger Players, Singapore and Japanese actors will perform as puppets as well as puppeteers.

The Year Of No Return, by theatre company The Necessary Stage, will delve into the environmental crisis, while A Dream Under The Southern Bough: Existence will conclude Toy Factory Productions' Kun opera adaptation.

The festival will open with a concert paying tribute to Singapore jazz legend Louis Soliano.

Other events include an outdoor virtual-reality experience by experimental band The Observatory; a film programme at the Oldham Theatre; and works at The Arts House which spotlight care, compassion and climate change.

Sifa, which was founded in 1977 as the Singapore Festival of Arts, is organised by Arts House Limited and commissioned by the National Arts Council. Mr Kripalani will hand the reins to theatre director Natalie Hennedige for a three-year term starting next year.

Arts House Limited executive director Tan Boon Hui says: "Gaurav's final festival is one of hope, a signal for how art can help in the recovery of our society by bringing people together in theatres, concert halls as well as the virtual halls of the digital realm.

"It is a beacon for the new worlds of artistic presentation that are being forged by artists here and abroad in the wake of the pandemic."


Singapore International Festival of Arts

Where: Various venues; online

When: May 14 to 30; video on demand from June 5 to 12

Admission: Tickets start at $8 for video on demand, $10 for front-row student tickets and $15 for selected in-theatre programmes. Go to sifa.sg or call 6348-5555. Tickets go on sale from noon on Tuesday (March 16)

Info: Sifa website.